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Are antibiotic-resistant bacteria a threat to us?

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 21.9.2016 9.24
News item

Excessive use of antibiotics may result in the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This means that antibiotics will no longer be as effective at fighting bacterial diseases as we are used to.

Ministerial Counsellor for Health/Medical Affairs Anni-Riitta Virolainen-Julkunen of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health explains in the video whether antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a threat to us. She also tells what we need to do to ensure that antibiotics remain effective as well as how to reduce the likelihood of contracting a disease that requires antibiotics.

Link to the video interview:

Transcript of the interview

Do antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria also pose a threat to us here in Finland?

"If by super-bacteria you mean those types of microbes that are resistant to anti-microbial medicines and bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, then, yes, they do pose a threat. They are just as much a threat to us as are they are to other people in the world.

For example, we could no longer perform any procedures that penetrate the skin in hospitals if we wouldn't have any antibiotics. Typical outpatient procedures are largely based on the fact that infections can be prevented in advance by using antibiotics. This ability would be entirely eliminated if we used up all our antibiotics, not to mention the fact that there would not necessarily be any medicines for ordinary urinary tract infections."

What should be done to ensure that antibiotics remain effective?

"The absolutely most essential thing we must do is moderate our use of antibiotics. They should be used when there is a real need, not arbitrarily. This applies to both animals and humans – choosing the right medicine for the right situation at the right time. For example, we shouldn't rely on the development of new medicines. This involves all sorts of challenges – they are expensive and so difficult to develop, just from a biological standpoint, that we really have to make do with the medicines we have right now."

How can we reduce the likelihood of contracting diseases that require antibiotics?

"That's a very good question, but very difficult to answer. Infections can come from anywhere. When riding the tram, you can pick up germs just by holding the handrails. That's why it's really recommended that you always use, for example, a hand disinfectant after using the toilet and before eating. Whenever coming home from being in the city, you should wash your hands and use a hand disinfectant. This is what they do in health care facilities. I recommend infection prevention.

This is followed by vaccination. For example, taking a seasonal influenza shot for cases in which a viral infection comes first, followed by a bacterial infection, for which antibiotics are needed. The third thing is that, when travelling overseas, it is all to easy to pick up a case of travellers’ diarrhoea, and you'll end up carrying a germ in your own intestines that, thanks to the conditions there, is already resistant to antimicrobial medicines. This has been proven in Finnish research."

Video: Kimmo Vainikainen

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